Dear Travel Agent,
I am often approached and asked whether or not it is a good idea to charge a fee to prospective clients when offering to work with them.
I completely understand that time is money, and we have all had many seemingly wonderful prospective clients who wasted our time preparing quotes and fulfilling requests, only to have them buy somewhere else or book on their own.
This is when we imagine ourselves charging for our “wasted” time, or having a FEE for research, or even charging by the hour. What would happen if we were to do so?
Well, let’s look at that from the point of view of the supplier (which is what I was for 23 years), and you – the travel agent, as the client. Ask yourself how many suppliers you would pay a consulting fee to for preparing a quote for you. Would you pay the fee, or go look for another supplier who would do it for free?
As a supplier, we knew who the serious travel agents were, and we invested our time and energy with them. We also knew exactly who the Lookie-Loos were.
You may ask how we could tell? Well, with past experience, and by asking the right questions, we separated the “good” from the “bad” clients. From doing this over and over, and being asked to quote on an already perfect itinerary, we knew that another supplier had already done the job and that this was just another “copy and paste and get me a better price” scenario. Or being asked to quote a trip with an unreal budget; like asking for Dubai, 5 stars, with limo and helicopter rides, and VIP treatment for less than $1,500 per person (even asking to stay at Burj Al Arab).
We dealt with many travel agents, and it has always been my policy to teach them. We would explain why we wouldn’t quote another supplier’s itinerary, and I would advise how pricing for VIP works, and also explain anything else we thought was appropriate to educate the agents about.
In the end, it is your prospective client, and it is your time. Some travel agents do very well by charging a fee. Personally, I still believe in doing business without charging upfront, and being selective about who I am going to work with.
How about you?
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